The best way to describe Journey to the Savage Planet would be like No Man’s Sky but with a bit more purpose and just the one planet to explore. That might sound pretty limited on paper, but believe me, it actually makes for a very fun experience that will be particularly appreciated by those who enjoy an emphasis on exploration in their video games.
Journey to the Savage Planet sees players working for an organisation known as Kindred Aerospace that has the goal of exploring planets and finding those that are ideal for humanity to settle on. This means heading to unexplored planets and finding out if they’re safe, habitable, and what else might be living there. You visit a planet known as ARY-26, but the journey there has seen you run out of fuel – it’s up to you to use your tools to put together a new form of fuel to make your way home, all whilst taking the time to uncover more about the planet in the process.
There’s nothing particularly unique about the game’s narrative, with the whole ‘stranded on an alien planet’ thing done plenty of times across the sci-fi medium. The story doesn’t really take any interesting twists-and-turns either, with everything proving to be pretty predictable throughout. Fortunately, it manages to stay interesting thanks to its comedic elements, with plenty of silly and zany things to encounter across the game – both on the planet and through the strange messages that you receive from the peculiar boss of Kindred Aerospace. Don’t expect to be blown away by Journey to the Savage Planet’s narrative, but do expect it to make you chuckle.
Your goal in Journey to the Savage Planet is to explore the ‘savage planet’, learn more about its eco-system (the creatures and plant life), and then find the fuel needed to fly your way back home. This means venturing across its beautiful yet deadly environments, scanning everything you can find to learn more about it, and clearing all the missions that are given to you on the way.
It’s simple stuff, but there are plenty of different elements that ensure it remains fun. Meeting the wildlife is always a treat for example. Not because they’re all friendly because believe me, some are mean – it’s because they’re so creative and bizarre in design that you’ll be left wondering what weird creature you’ll encounter next. That aforementioned scanner always gives fun tid-bits of information about them too, and it’s always neat to learn more about the world.
Actually exploring is also pretty satisfying, which is something that’s owed to just how well-designed the world is and how handy the tools that you have at your disposal are. I mean, you’ve got a jump pack and a grappling hook – what more could you want? Whilst these are pretty standard tools in a video game, the way they’re utilised here ensures that traversal is always a treat in Journey to the Savage Planet.
ARY-26 is considered a ‘savage planet’ for a reason though, so you can expect to face a lot of danger during your adventure. Fortunately, death isn’t the end, with the player able to be ‘replicated’ and head back on their adventure (mostly) fuss-free. You’re also able to re-visit your corpse in order to gather any resources you lost, though it is a little morbid to scavenge through your own remains… you can even bury yourself, which is particularly strange! The only downside to all of this is that you replicate back at your home ship, which means there’s a bit of backtracking to do in order to return to your previous location. Thankfully, there are some decent fast-travel mechanics in place so you can get back to the action pretty quickly… well… outside of the sometimes lengthy load-times.
There’s a big emphasis on exploration in Journey to the Savage Planet and a lot of your enjoyment will come down to how much you appreciate the sense of discovery it offers. Besides the fact that you’re tasked with uncovering as many different resources as you can and scanning the creatures and plant life that inhabit the planet, you’ve also got to work out which areas are safe to venture across and which you may want to steer clear of until you’re more prepared. There are plenty of secrets to uncover on the planet too, some of which only the keenest of explorers will uncover.
Of course, there’s also a fair bit of guidance in place and the main missions always ensure you’re headed on the right track. Those who want to get the most out of Journey to the Savage Planet will want to head off the beaten track and explore though, with the most satisfying discoveries in the game being those that you find by complete chance. It’s good stuff.
You’re able to improve your own capabilities whilst exploring the planet, with side quests and science experiments seeing you unlock all-new gear – provided you have the resources to craft them, of course. You’re also able to improve your stats by collecting the strange orange goo that’s found on the planet, so you’ll always want to keep an eye out for that. I mean, it’s bright orange so it does stand out for the most part, but it’s definitely worth scouring the planet for just to make sure that you prep yourself for some of ARY-26’s harsher challenges.
Everything just comes together nicely to make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It manages to keep its main mechanics simple so nothing feels overwhelming, but without sacrificing the sense of discovery you feel as you explore the planet, the sense of danger when you’re uncovering uncharted areas for the first time, or the satisfaction you’ll have when completing the many missions you’re tasked with on your adventure. It’s just a lot of fun to play and feels really jolly throughout (well… outside of all of the vicious deaths you’ll suffer) whilst the sense of progression you’ll feel both from a gameplay and discovery perspective never stops feeling rewarding.
There’s also the option to play in online multiplayer with a friend, but it’s not something I’ve had the chance to try yet. If it’s anything like single player though, I’m sure it’ll be a blast – especially since it focuses more on co-operative action than trying to take each other down.
I’ve got plenty of praise to heap on Journey to the Savage Planet, but it’s not a flawless experience. For one, the shooting in the game can feel a little clunky when compared to your typical first-person shooter. Of course, Journey to the Savage Planet isn’t TRYING to be a typical shooter so it can’t be held against the game too much, but it was a little disappointing that it wasn’t more enjoyable to take down ARY-26’s more hostile creatures.
Some of the missions could feel a little uninspired too, particularly the side missions such as the science experiments that challenge you to kill enemies in specific ways. These just felt like a bit of a drag, and whilst they do encourage creativity, it often felt like more fuss than it was worth. Of course, some of the side missions do offer some really neat scenarios that show how wacky the game can be too, but there are a few duds along the way.
Then there’s the fact you can’t pause the game. Sure, it’s a minor issue, but not having the freedom to just stop the action when you need to grab a drink or answer your phone put me in a few troubling situations in-game. Admittedly, the negatives of Journey to the Savage Planet are outweighed by its positives, but there’s no doubting that it does have some flaws here and there.
One area in which it consistently shines is with its visual presentation, with ARY-26 making for a beautiful landscape that’s full of rich and vibrant sights. The unusual creatures that you encounter make it feel like a living and breathing habitat too, whilst some of the more unique discoveries you make on the believable-alien world certainly help cement the wonder of being in a land like no other. It also runs really well on the PlayStation 4, with no technical hiccups or bugs encountered during my time playing.
Journey to the Savage Planet is just one of those games that never stops feeling fun and rewarding to play. There isn’t masses of depth to its experience outside of exploring this alien-world that’s full of wondrous sights to see and vicious creatures to encounter, but that doesn’t stop it from offering some addictively enjoyable gameplay that’s strengthened by the sense of discovery felt as you uncover more and more of the planet.
It’s not perfect, with the clunky shooting and some uninspired missions bringing the experience down a couple of pegs – fortunately, those flaws aren’t troublesome enough to stop you having a jolly good time on your Journey to the Savage Planet.
Developer: Typhoon Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC